Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation’s Silver Award journey

It began in February 2020 just before the Covid 19 Lockdown when EHC was invited by the Salisbury Centre (next door to the Shul) to send a representative to an all day Interfaith workshop called ‘Living Lighter’ funded by Edinburgh Council.

The result was the formation in March 2020, with full support of EHC’s Board of Management, of an Environmental Group subsequently called ‘EHC Green Team’. We immediately began to look at how the Shul could become more environmentally friendly and have met every month since on Zoom.

Even while the premises were closed we had an assessment by Zero Waste Scotland with a report looking at energy saving possibilities.  Calculations were done as to what was might be possible and indeed financially viable in our 1930’s, listed, stone built Shul.  An assessment was also done by an advised company on indoor insulation.

By the time we were pointed in the direction of Eco Synagogue and the Audit that is tailored to Jewish congregations, EHC was already well on the way to achieving a Bronze Award.  Our caretaker, Richie, working all through lockdown, changed lightbulbs to LED, unstuck and closed open windows and cleaned secondary glazing to allow more light in. We purchased a large recycling bin for the kitchen and put up information clarifying recycling icons. Clingfilm was banished and replaced with reusable covers and clip lock boxes. A soft plastic recycling bag, now extended to include crisp packets, food pouches, salad and vegetable bags, tub films etc, is now available in our kitchen to be taken to any supermarket with recycling bag facilities. Richie now informs us that these days he often only puts out one bin bag of land fill a week in contrast to the previous four or five! Work also started in our sizeable garden space behind the Shul, to plant herbs, install a compost bin, put up bird feeders and to make an enjoyable space for outdoor kiddushim once services were allowed. Caterers in our EHC kitchen are getting used to putting uncooked fruit and vegetable peelings in our garden compost bin. Recyclable and home compostable napkins and paper towels are now regularly purchased for use by members attending our Shul events.  Eco friendly cleaning materials are replacing old stock and loo rolls from recycled paper are now in situ.

Our premises abound with notices to turn off lights (not on Shabbat and Festivals) and to put waste in appropriate bins.  We now have an ‘ EHC Green Team’ notice board in the Shul foyer with information on the environment and Green Team activities. A Team update is also included in EHC’s weekly newsletter, the ‘Shavuon’. In addition Rabbi David Rose writes a weekly ‘Green Parsha’ showing us how the Torah explains our need to care for the earth.

We have participated in planting trees in a rewilding Edinburgh project and have formed an EHC group committed to a morning helping in a wider community clean up for the ‘Water of Leith Conservation Project’.

What next?  At the moment we are campaigning for Sustainable Palm Oil to be used in Kosher products and to encourage recycling information on their packaging. The challenge of changing hearts and minds to become more environmentally aware continues as do the steps towards an Eco Synagogue Gold Award.

Lesley Danzig, Leader

Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation Green Team